Scholarship Fund Named in Honor of
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (Nov. 3, 2014) ─ A new scholarship fund has been established for Rhode Island’s Official Sailing Education Vessel, SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, by friends and family of Virginia Wagner (Newport. R.I.). Wagner, a charter consultant for Nicholson Yachts and highly respected Tall Ship and yacht captain (with a 3,000 ton license and over 400,000 miles at sea), is fighting a courageous battle with mesothelioma. On Saturday October 25 she was the guest of honor at a special gathering of more than 75 people aboard the 200-foot Tall Ship to announce that the Captain Virginia Wagner Honorary Sail Training Scholarship Fund has been jump-started with donations already totaling over $50,000.
“I started out as a trainee on a Tall Ship,” said Wagner, explaining to the guests that the scholarship fund will be used to help at-risk youths attend the education-at-sea programs offered by the non-profit organization Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI), “and through a series of circumstances, I became a captain of the Tall Ships Galaxy and Ocean Star and then eventually a captain of yachts. As ayoung adult trying to find my path through life, sailing on a Tall Ship gave me purpose and made me into who I am today. If we can help even one young person who was like me and could otherwise be ‘lost,’ it’s worth it.”
The idea for the scholarship fund was first presented to OHPRI by Wagner’s dearest friend Karen Kelly Shea of Nicholson Yachts, whose son Emmet had raved about his experience this past summer as an OHPRI trainee aboard the schooner Mystic. Jim Van Winkle (Austin, Texas), a charter yacht owner(True North, Matau) for whom Captain Wagner has worked over the past 10 years to “bring amazing experiences to an extraordinary number of people” launched the fund with a gracious donation, and the fund has rapidly grown as the word has spread.
Van Winkle explained that Wagner is family to him, and while Van Winkle’s wife, daughter and in-laws made the trip to Newport to celebrate the announcement, so too had a charter client from Denver, Heather Haibt, who said she had been touched by Wagner’s life and decided she could help make the occasion “joyful” by underwriting the music, catering, wine and champagne.
“That’s just who Virginia is; everybody loves her,” said Van Winkle about the team effort. She is battling the disease with the support of her long-time partner Jamie and her family and friends, and she has pursued every possible treatment and continues her fight as we speak. Many of Virginia's friends and family have already donated to this worthy cause, and we hope that the benefits of these programs will attract ongoing support for years to come.”